Sunday, June 17

You've Gotta Have Heart

Recently written and published as part of The Blog Exchange, this month. I post this piece again in honor of my Father on Father's Day, and for his ease in finding it, right here on the front page of my blog!

"My Pa can light my room at night
With just his being near
And make a fearful dream all right
By grinning ear to ear...

When I was a little girl, and would wake with a nightmare start, tears streaming and little shoulders shaking, my dad would walk me through a middle-of-the-night ritual. It always began with a story about the "little man" who lived inside my head, in a neighborhood called The Saab Konchus. While I slumbered the night away, this little man, who was inconceivably, unbelievably bored, would wander through the corridors of my brain kicking open doors as he passed them. Behind the doors is where my thoughts and ideas were stored. Most of the time, when the doors were opened, lovely thoughts fluttered out; flowers and butterflies and dancing faerie kind of ideas. However, sometimes, when little kicking man popped a door open, behind it would be scary things. Ugly things. Bad things. Things from which NIGHTMARES are made. The doors would fly open and the stuff would fly out. That is when I would wake up crying. And my dad would be there, always, ready to sprinkle "magic whiffle dust" into my ears. Whiffle dust had the power to make the door close on the bad things, and I could sleep again without fear. I loved whiffle dust being sprinkled in my ears. I still believe I could actually feel its enchantment working as it settled inside my brain. I remember its very real effects even though whiffle dust itself is an unseen substance without texture, weight or smell. Magic is what it was, pure and simple daddy magic.

My Pa can do most anything
He sets his mind to do
He'd even move a mountain
If he really wanted to...

When I was 20 years old, residing and adventuring a long way from home, I got a post-card from my parents who were traveling in Texas at the time. It was a short announcement that they were considering leaving Utah and moving to that "whole 'nother country" down south. I could not have been more shocked than if they had told me the planet Mars had just started a subdivision and they had decided to purchase a spec house. Texas? But we were lifetime UTAHNS! What in the world was my pop thinking?

He swears by the fact, that it was not thought at all which led them to Texas. Rather it was feeling. Logically, it made no sense, since they didn't have a job, a home, or even prospects in Texas. However, as he tells it, he could not have felt more called to make the move. Therefore, they did. After a near lifetime in the Beehive State, where they had practically completed raising six kids, they sold the businesses, packed their possessions and relocated in the Lone Star State.
It was not a seamless transition but certainly, it was a worthwhile change, and my dad is the perfect model for being willing to toss it all in and voyage into something new. Yet, you may wonder where I got the gumption to move across the ocean with my husband and our kids.

My Pa can sweeten up a day
That clouds and rain make gray...

Winter in The Netherlands is one of the hardest things I have ever had to face. The heavy skies, the relentless rain and the lack of sunshine really take a toll on my psyche. In the midst of the long season this year, I confided to my dad that I was really struggling with it all. I just could not feel happy. And I was frightened. This time around, he did not produce whiffle dust to sprinkle in my ears, but something nearly as magical. In short order after our initial conversation a package arrived at my house. A light therapy box designed and marketed to help folks like me who suffer from
SAD, or the winter blues if you will. It is a daily dose of sunshine in a convenient portable box. Truly, it is brilliant— all puns intended— and once again, I can credit my dad with giving me light.

And tell me funny stories
That will chase the clouds away...

The six of us grew up on my dad's stories. Imaginative adventures, starring us, the Mighty Six who, as ordinary children most of the time had the power to slip into our superhero selves at a moment's notice, just so we could save the world. Yes indeed, Rocket Man, Jet Mouse, Flash Girl, Mighty Min, Runnin' Red, and Jumpin' John could handle any situation no matter the circumstance and notwithstanding the danger. If anyone needed help, why, we were ready. We six were champions of humanity in extraordinary form!

A repeated favorite is the story he tells, complete with an affected speech pattern--his tongue stuck inside his lower lip as he speaks--about his "pet" tiger named Herbert. Oh, how I wish I could videoblog it at this very moment. I promise you would not be able to stop chortling.
This legendary tale has now reached the next generation of listeners and at every family gathering there are repeated requests for Grandpa to “puh-leeeeeaaaaze tell the Herbert story?”. It doesn't matter that we all know the punch line. The entire clan will sit stock still in rapt attention at his feet as he conveys the naughtiness of his (imaginary) pet tiger.

My Pa's the only one on Earth I can tell my troubles to
His arms are house and home to me
His face a pretty poem to me...

Pardon the repeat of a story told once already on my blog. However, no tribute to my dad would be complete without this one.
We were living in Salt Lake City, Utah and it was a summer storm. I remember grand flashes of light and tremendous rolls of thunder shocking and blasting through the sky. I was terrified. I remember trembling and howling. Big shoulder heaving sobs escaped me as I searched to find a spot where I could hide away from the chaos of the storm. My best option for refuge was to wrap myself into the full-length drapes hanging at the windows in the living room. Possibly, if I couldn’t see the lightning, I wouldn’t hear the thunder. Perhaps then, I might feel safe. That is where I was when my daddy found me; curled up and shaking, tear streaks running across my cheeks. He pulled me from my hiding place and asked me about my troubles. I am sure that what poured forth from my five-year-old self was succinct and poetic as I explained the sheer terror I was feeling on account of Mother Nature’s outdoor demonstration. I cannot recount the actual conversation we shared but I can vividly recall the feelings of the day. My dad and I sat together there in the living room; my arms wrapped around his neck, and watched the storm. I learned that day about measuring the distance of lightning by counting the seconds between the strike and the thunderclap. Counting with him was a good distraction from the tears, still perched at the corners of my eyes, threatening to fall. I am sure we sat there counting for a good long time, or at least 15 minutes. Then, when the lighting and thunder show had ceased, and the rain was falling in earnest, my dad and I took a walk. A long walk in the rain together, hands joined. We walked in the rain, and we talked in the rain. Timid at first and then braver as the journey continued, I remember being amazed by just almost everything I saw. I remember getting wet—very wet—as in drenched and dripping with rainwater. It was marvelous. I do wish I could call up any actual words he said to me, as I have no doubts that they were perfect and profound as he talked to me about rain and life, teaching me things it would take me decades to fully understand. All I know is I felt strong and brave walking with my dad that day and I was no longer afraid. Not of the rain. Not of anything.

My Pa's the finest friend I ever knew
I only wish that you could know him too."*

Happy Father's Day Daddy. My heart still belongs to you.

Barbra Streisand - My Pa
Lyrics by M. Leonard & H. Martin


  1. A beautiful and touching tribute to Dad.
    Thank you for taking the time to compose this and sharing it.

    Be well~

  2. Sometimes it's the "little" holidays that make being apart from loved ones really hard. At Christmas and Easter there is always the big fuss of the holidays, kids making decorations and projects at school, parties, etc. But especially as an ex-pat the holidays that are not really given attention (if even acknowledged) are the hardest (Thanksgiving, July 4th, Halloween). And then come the special ones that we celebrate just in the family - Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays, anniversaries. These are the ones that somehow sneak up on us and we suddenly realise just how important they are. A wave of homesickness washes over you, and you catch your breath, fight back the tears and keep yourself going. Though I'd read these posts before, seeing them again made me miss my Dad and think of similar memories I have of him. You made me cry (again) Jenn, but that's okay. Tears remind us of the depth of our feelings. Thanks for sharing. Sending you a thought-hug.

  3. He sounds just wonderful. And I can see where you get that ability to be adventurous and live someplace new from. Holland/Texas--if you always lived in one place your whole life anywhere new is a BIG change.

  4. You do know how lucky you are, right? What a great dad.

  5. Your dad sounds like a really special man. Thanks for letting us share some of your memories.

    Take care,

  6. That is a wonderful, wonderful post!!
    Thank you for sharing.

  7. Beautiful post. It made me cry (in a good way). Your father sounds like an amazing man. No doubt that some of that has rubbed off on you, too.

  8. That's like a fairy tale! Wow. But the Saab Konchus? What the hell? Is your father from a foreign country. Who comes up with that?

    My oldest son (the sensitive one) used to have nightmares (still does actually) about some little creatures with long pointy noses. He calls them "moosey-boos." I have no idea why. He also had night terrors when he was young. And anxiety attacks. I think he just had thoughts that were too big for his little maturity level.

  9. It's more then twelve years ago since my dad died totally unexpectedly. I wish I could write about him the way you do about yours, but it still hurts too much. I think we both share the same deep love for our dads

  10. Whoa, loved it. The whole thing. Great tribute to your dad.

  11. Very touching story, Jenn. How wonderful for you that you have these childhood memories and can pass on that kind of legacy to your children.